Friday, June 29, 2007

Distress Signal

Why Must We?

Horrible Reality (2004), Zeljko Prebeg

Croatian artist Prebeg described his painting as follows: "After long time of the TV watching you can make only such a painting..." So just you watch out, couch potatoes.

When I read the title, "We Can Win This Kind of War, and We Must," I thought my respected McClatchy News service had betrayed me. I disagree with almost all of it. Then I realized this was a guest posting from a West Point grad, and all was forgiven.

In the piece, U.S. Army Capt. Brandon Anderson says past wars were simple.

"Counterinsurgency warfare is difficult, complex and often frustrating, especially in contrast to the seeming simplicity of past wars. We must avoid two extremes in order to understand and win the kind of wars our country is fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq."

They were not simple, but rather, understandable as containing a sort of logic in a world where logic had broken down. In effect, wars served a larger corrective social purpose.

This is not so in COIN operations. Take Afghanistan, which the U.S. INVADED and now occupies with NATO compliance.

It is a kindness to call this a counterinsurgency, since there was not an insurgency when Afghanistan was subjected to the kind attention of the U.S. military invasion. It is more correct to call the insurgency a resistance movement formed to oust a foreign invader, similar to the reactions to the Japanese in China and the Germans in France during WW II.

Afghanistan is, without a doubt, a failed state, but foreign invasion has not undone this Gordian Knot, nor will it ever. The U.S. cannot dissipate its combat power and energy addressing such issues.

More appropriately, this should be addressed through United Nations channels and by letting others set up the puppet regimes. Puppet governments are an outgrowth of totalitarianism, and should be avoided at all costs. America does not need Karzai or Maliki--what is the point?

Anderson next says we mustn't use traditional metrics to determine success, nor must we despair when they don't show success. He says both approaches are "
intellectually lazy, and neither is appropriate if we care about protecting our way of life."

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with protecting our way of life, and everything to do with eroding our hard won democratic values.

They are about inflicting our way of life on unwilling persons. Hence the resistance. which we like to call an insurgency. fighting foreign invaders is a noble cause in the general fabric of history. That is, for those who bother to read history.

"The insurgencies that the West confronts have been fought and won before, in the Philippines, Malaya, Nicaragua and Peru."

And how did the supposed "winning" advance the cause of democracy or "protect our way of life"?
"Understanding how this kind of war is different is crucial."

Of course, this is only a war because we want it to be a war. If the U.S. leaves Iraq and Afghanistan, then the war stops for our forces. internal squabbles of Iraq and Afghanis are not the concern of the U.S. military machine. We have simply served to open Pandora's Box, thank you very much.

Personally, Ranger does not give a rat's ass about Iraq and Afghanistan; it should not be a concern for our combat forces. Doesn't America still have a State department? Don't we still fight only after all political approaches fail?

What horse does the U.S, have in either of these races? No matter who wins or loses in either scenario, America will still be America, and everybody can still remain fat, dumb and obliviously happy. The existence of the U.S. is not tied to either failed state.

"We can win this kind of war, and we must. Our security, and that of our children and our children's children hangs in the balance. The road will be difficult and progress won't look like it did in World War II. But it's just as important, and our way of life is in just as much danger."

Ranger wishes that just once somebody spouting these chauvanistic platitudes would demonstrate HOW this is a true statement.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Chuck Lindberg at Iwo Jima

--First Flag-Raising on Mount Suribachi

Ranger feels it appropriate to recognize the death of Charles W. Lindberg, 86, one of the U.S. Marines who raised the first American flag over Iwo Jima during World War II.

As testimonial to the power of an image, he said no one believed him when he said he and his patrol raised the first flag at Iwo Jima. "I was called a liar," he said, referring to the popularized photo of the second flag-raising by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal.

"In the late morning of Feb. 23, 1945, Lindberg fired his flame-thrower into enemy pillboxes at the base of Mount Suribachi and then joined five other Marines fighting their way to the top. He was awarded the Silver Star for bravery.

"Two of our men found this big, long pipe there," he said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2003. "We tied the flag to it, took it to the highest spot we could find and we raised it.
"'Down below, the troops started to cheer, the ship's whistles went off, it was just something that you would never forget,' he said. 'It didn't last too long, because the enemy started coming out of the caves.'
"The moment was captured by Sgt. Lou Lowery, a photographer from the Marine Corps' Leatherneck magazine. It was the first time a foreign flag flew on Japanese soil.
"Three of the men in the first raising never saw their photos. They were among the more than 6,800 U.S. servicemen killed in the five-week battle for the island.
"After his discharge in January 1946, Lindberg went home to Grand Forks, N.D. He moved to Richfield in 1951 and became an electrician." (Iwo Jima Flag Raiser Dies at 86)."

Ranger grew up around such men, and they were all quiet, humble and unknown. They were living, breathing heroes, but their bravery and heroism went unsung in the community. They did a man's duty, and were welcomed back into the community to carry on. They did not have to brook either protest or false adulation.

My father, a WW II Navy vet, returned to the coal mines after the war, and there remained until they closed. My neighbor was an officer and a fighter pilot in WW II, but I knew him as a coal miner.

These men were my teachers at grammar school, and basically surrounded me in my childhood. They were the citizen soldiers who did their patriotic duty, and returned home to be repatriated as ordinary citizens.

From the heights to the depths. Or more correctly, from the depths to the heights, and back again, Mr. Lindberg went from Suribachi to a life as an electrician. And now he's passed, and will never again have to prove that he raised the first flag on Suribachi.

Silver Stars cannot equal the conspicuous gallantry of all the men throughout history who have served with such distinction. It is also instructive that Mr. Lindberg was not a professional warrior, but rather a citizen serving in dire circumstances.

"A bronze bust of him will be included in the monument to all veterans that is being built at Veterans Memorial Park in [Richmond, MN]. The monument is expected to be completed in July 2008.
"'He was such a modest man, and he didn't get the recognition until recently for what he has done,' said Steve Devich, Richfield's city manager. 'I wished so much he would have been around to see the dedication of that memorial,' said Devich." (Chuck Lindberg, Who Raised Flag at Iwo Jima, Dies.)

We raise a salute to all the Lindbergs out there.

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Voting With Bullets and Ballots

No Title, Otto Schade (2005)

Well, here we are; well, here we are!

Just watch us rolling up a score.

We'll leave those fellows behind so far,

They won't want to play us any more!

--Boola Boola, Yale Fight Song

He that troubleth his own house

shall inherit the wind

--Proverbs 11:29


It is Afghan President Karzai's opinion that the civilians, and not the Taliban, are bearing the brunt of the attacks. Again, as in the past, he calls for more restraint, warning that "the fight against resurgent Taliban militants could fail" otherwise. But they're just, you know, peasants, and they probably procreate like bunnies.

"In the past 10 days, more than 90 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and artillery fire targeting Taliban insurgents, Karzai said. The mounting toll is sapping the authority of the Western-backed Afghan president, who has pleaded repeatedly with US and NATO commanders to consult Afghan authorities during operations and show more restraint."

"Several times in the last year, the Afghan government tried to prevent civilian casualties, but our innocent people are becoming victims of careless operations of NATO and international forces," Karzai said." (Karzai criticizes US, NATO; Says forces killing Afghan civilians in careless operations)

But it appears that we're winning, since the score is NATO/U.S. killed: 211; Taliban: 172. Go team. So you see, basically 211 hearts and minds have been eternally converted and cannot become Taliban recruits. Let's not count their family and friends, since the court's still out on that one.

Voting with bullets in Afghanistan and Iraq is as valid as voting with ballots.

An article sidebar noted that seven al Qaida fighters and 10 suspects were killed. So suspects are tainted by their proximity to bad guys. Mother always told us you would be judged by the company you keep. And certainly, America is a safer place for it.

In Gitmo and all the secret prisons, the
detainees are still suspects, but on the street, justice is dispensed much more swiftly with a 5.56 mm round.

In effect, you can be shot down in the street or languish in prison. Pick your poison. It is not good to be a suspect in today's brave new world.

One would expect more of America's concept of legality.

When will this madness and illegality stop? Clearly Americans accept this lawlessness, since there is no end in sight. We must revert to the rule of law if we are to remain a viable democracy in more than name alone.

At this point, we are not displaying moral rectitude--we are just the bigger bully. Boola, boola.


The Croupier and the Creep

The better the gambler, the worse the man
--Publius Syrus

Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing from something
--Wilson Mizner

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong

--Ecclesiastes 9:11


My troubadour reader, Minstrel Boy of Harp and Sword, sent the following comment on the previous "Benchmarks," and I thought it so good I'd share it.

His analogy of the croupier to the profligate wastrel GWB was spot-on.

"They really, and truly, don't care. They will attempt in their shameless and cynical manner to explain it all away, deny any dissent or keep telling the same bald-faced lies that have--and this is no excuse--worked so bloody well for the last six years.

Lugar is right to speak out, and he is a senator that I have respected for a long time. It's just that he doesn't get that these guys don't have a plan B. They never have. They have never understood one of the basic lessons of war craft that has been taught since Sun Tsu:

The enemy always has a vote.

When the sweets and flowers that were to greet the liberators degenerated into riots and looting in the streets of Baghdad during those first few critical days of occupation they had no answer, because they never asked those questions.

I have heard conservative writers who describe Bush as "going all in" with the surge, and they are right up to a point.

The thing that they miss with the gambling analogy is that Bush resembles nothing less than the degenerate, compulsive gamblers that I used to see when I was working out of Las Vegas. The guys who would make the same play over and over without realizing that the house makes a comfortable living on a 2.5% edge. The guys who would bet the house on a draw, because they were ashamed to go home and tell their wives they had clucked off the car.

I used to love seeing them at the poker tables because they were so easily manipulated. Show them a couple hands and they think that they have you figured, then wait. Wait for the nuts and flash the same tells (you might have to go a little over the top on your performance because these cluckers don't pay close attention).

Then pull the trigger on them and watch the stunned look on their faces as their decent two pair dies a shameful death and hear them say,"Nobody would have figured you for that straight."

Right chump. Nobody.

The bitch of it is that these idiots are gambling with lives. Real flesh and blood lives. Lives lost, lives forever changed by catastrophic injury. They have even upped the ante further by gambling things like our honor and reputation in the world. Now they are shoving our most basic liberties (habeas corpus anyone?) into the center of the table without any collateral left to back their play.

The markers will always come due and the collector is always some guy named Vito.

The only way to get them to stop is to close the game. "


Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Res Ipsa Locquitur
--“the facts speak for themselves.”


Senate byRichard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a fine and reasoned speech Monday night on the floor of the Senate. It offers an exceedingly clear argument for U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi hostilities. It should be read, and the WaPo reprinted a portion today in "Beyond Politics on Iraq."

How refreshing to know that even within the Republican party reside some clear thinkers.

It speaks for itself, and I offer the following two excerpts only as accompaniment to my cartoon choice:

"The possibility that the United States can set meaningful benchmarks that would provide an indication of impending success or failure is remote."


"We have contemplated in great detail whether Iraqi success in achieving certain benchmarks should determine whether funding is approved or whether a withdrawal should commence. I would observe that none of this debate addresses our vital interests."

I submit that the only benchmarks this administration is concerned with meeting parallel those of the stalwart doggie at the park bench.



Deconstructing the Good War

Tell it like it is, don't be ashamed,
let your conscience be your guide

Life is too short to have sorrow,
you may be here today and gone tomorrow

Tell it Like it Is, Archie Campbell


Let's play a little game where we look at a news feed, and then say what really happened behind the words. We'll call it deconstructing the news, and if we find it amusing or helpful, we might begin doing it on a semi-regular basis.

We'll start with a short article from the New York Times, that propagandist bastion of liberality, according to Ann Coulter's ilk--"Afghans Say NATO Airstrike Killed at Least 25 Civilians in the South":

"At least 25 civilians, including nine women, three infants and an elderly village mullah, were killed in an airstrike early Friday morning when they were caught in a battle between Taliban and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, the police chief of Helmand Province said.

"The situation was grimly familiar: the Taliban launched an attack under the cover of darkness and then retreated into the village of Kunjakak in the Grishk district of Helmand. NATO commanders ordered air support, and the result was devastating.

"Lt. Col. Mike Smith, a NATO spokesman, said in a written statement that perhaps 30 Taliban insurgents had been killed in the airstrike, adding that while an unknown number of innocents might have lost their lives, the fault was entirely the enemy’s. “In choosing to conduct such attacks in this location at this time, the risk to civilians was probably deliberate,” Colonel Smith said. “It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties.

[1] An unknown number of innocents might have lost their lives...

No, an unknown number of innocents did die; they were killed. You don't "maybe" lose your life.

[2] "Afghans are not only angry with the Taliban, whose terrorizing tactics include using suicide attacks and concealed roadside bombs, they are also upset by what they see as the sometimes indiscriminate death toll of allied bombs and rockets."

What a mouthful of mush. It says: O.k., the Afghans are mad at a lot of people (=anger management problems; they may just be unlikable people anyway.) It implies they are not discriminating in their judgment calls.

"Upset by what they see as sometimes indiscriminate death toll of allied bombs and rockets"?

This is ridiculous. One is upset when an episode of Lost is postponed.

What this should say is, "They are angry--mad as hell--that our bombs are killing innocent people." They are feeling impotent.

Bombs and rockets are not sentient things. They can not be indiscriminate, for that implies they can also be discriminate. It is we, the bomb-droppers, who are indiscriminate. We are the allies who dropped the bombs, so we must accept culpability for their anger and impotence.

[3] "the risk to civilians was probably deliberate"

The risk of death to civilians became inevitable because of the predictable ham-fisted U.S. response to a provocation which was obviously deliberate.

Imagine the gall of the Taliban to imagine they have the right to fight foreign invaders. Kind of like, "Red dawn of Kabul."

[4] “It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties.

irresponsible action which led [not, might have led] to the killings was the release of U.S. bombs upon those civilians.


“This past week has been very tough,” said Christopher Alexander, the deputy special representative of the U.N. Secretary General in Afghanistan. “I’ve seen the reports. In the Chora attack, the Taliban literally slit the throats of men, women and children and burned the bodies. But there was also close air support that killed civilians,” he said, referring to the NATO airstrike.

Of course, the ones killed by the airstrikes are just as dead as those that had their throats cut by Taliban. And of course, it is always the fault of the nasty Taliban.

And of course, some day all the foreign invaders will leave, and what will be left?

I reckon it'll be called "Taliban."

And tell me one more time, why are we there?

--Jim and Lisa


Peace Through Superior Firepower

"In an election year, dead veterans of the current conflict crawl out of their
graves and stagger single-mindedly to voting booths so they can eject
the president who sent them to fight a war sold on horseshit and elbow grease"

--Joe Dante, veteran and director of veteran-zombie film,

I don't want to spoil the party so I'll go,

I would hate my disappointment to show,

There's nothing for me here, so I will disappear

--I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, The Beatles


This is the actual picture accompanying the story--an unnamed soldier distributing water to an unidentified Iraqi woman.

They are both beautiful, deviating as they do from the typical pictures we see of angry woman and clenched-jaw men. They might both be dead any day now, from the actions of one side or the other. Why is it when it approaches Hollywood's standards, it becomes more tangible?

The story:

"In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of al Qaida in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaida leaders’ escape as cowardice, saying that 'when the fight comes, they leave,' abandoning 'midlevel' Qaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops — just, he said, as they did in Falluja."

What if you threw a party, and no one came?

Yes indeed--it is cowardly to leave the troops in a lurch, but that is what a DLIC is designed to do. The DLIC is the detachment left in contact, which allows the main body to escape while the DLIC does a DIP (die in place.)

The DLIC is a classic tactic and is trained into U.S. Army doctrine. If this is a cowardly act, then General Douglas MacArthur's Medal of Honor earned at Bataan and Corregidor should be rescinded.

Why? Didn't he escape to Australia, thereby leaving his Army behind to die a slow, cruel demise in the Bataan Death March? Sorry--if we do it, it is heroic; if they do it, it is cowardly.

"American commanders said this week that, more than 30 months after the city was recaptured, Qaida groups have reinfiltrated the city, mounting suicide bombing attacks, assassinating police and city council leaders and forcing a fresh American and Iraqi offensive this month that has been aimed at capturing or killing the Qaeda fighters."

"(W)ith all the additional Army brigades ordered into the war by Mr. Bush now in the field, along with additional Marine units, the commanders here now have more firepower than they have had at any time since the American invasion in 2003."

Delusionally, U.S. leadership thinks firepower is the answer.

Firepower is not the answer in Iraq, or anywhere else in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT). This is not a classic war scenario where decisive combat power will tip the equation.

Firepower is not the answer today, unless one finds oneself completely surrounded by zombies in a horror flick. And even then, it is not a slam-dunk.


In a picky postscript, the Times ends the article with the following:

"I.E.D., or improvised explosive device, is military jargon for a homemade bomb."

Technically, an IED does not need to be homemade. It could be a 60/81 mm/4.2"/105/155/8", 175 mm., 500 lb. aerial bomb shell rigged to explode in an unintended manner, utilizing an expedient means of detonation. It is the utilization which is improvised.

In fact, there used to be a field manual entitled, "Improvised Munitions," utilized by SOF types in the 60's-80's. In reality, what we are now calling IED's are actually improvised munitions. The usage of IED has been adopted since most of the earlier groups did actually use IED's or homemade bombs. Times have changed.

NYT should hire a Ranger as a military consultant; that would clear up their fog of war.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

La Cosa Nostra

MG (retd.) Taguba

Major General Stanley:

I am the very model of a modern Major General,

I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical

From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;

I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,

About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news,

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.


In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

He is the very model of a modern Major General.

--Pirates of Penzance
, Gilbert and Sullivan


Major General Taguba, who led the investigation in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, was the model Major General. But he was blacklisted and forced to retired for his rigorous investigation and for allowing the "systemic and illegal abuse" to come to the light of public inspection.

The New Yorker's recent interview with Major General (retd.) Taguba presents a damning vision of the Army's project writ large ("The General's Report: How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its Victims.")

Ranger seldom gets to discuss real heroes in this era of illegitimate U.S. military and government actions. Today we'll give a gloss the actions of MG (retd.) Anthony Taguba, as presented by another hero in the press, Seymour Hersh.

Describing his first dismissive and mocking reception by Rumsfeld et. al., Taguba said now, three years on, "I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting."

At that meeting, someone asked for clarification on the finer point of whether the treatment was more correctly abuse, or torture. Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”

"Taguba said that he saw 'a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.' The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it."

Further, Taguba said Rumsfeld's sworn denials of knowledge of the abuse had no credibility.

“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”

However, Taguba was limited in the scope of his investigations. He had to stay within the realm of the MP's at the prison who were actually on record as having committed the atrocities.

“From what I knew, troops just don’t take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups. . .These M.P. troops were not that creative,” he said. “Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority. I was limited to a box.”

When Gen. Abazaid, head of Centcom, warned Taguba that he would be investigated, he said that was the first time in 32 years of Army service that he" thought [he] was in the Mafia.”

In the course of his investigations, he came to discover that Lt. Gen. Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, was also aware of the abuses. “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on,” Taguba said.

He also learned the Pentagon had ordered Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantánamo, to Iraq to survey the prison system there and to find ways to improve the flow of intelligence.

"The core of Miller’s recommendations, as summarized in the Taguba report, was that the military police at Abu Ghraib should become part of the interrogation process: they should work closely with interrogators and intelligence officers in “setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.

"Taguba concluded that Miller’s approach was not consistent with Army doctrine, which gave military police the overriding mission of making sure that the prisons were secure and orderly. His report cited testimony that interrogators and other intelligence personnel were encouraging the abuse of detainees."

"If they had spoken, Taguba said, he would have reminded Miller that at Abu Ghraib, unlike at Guantánamo, very few prisoners were affiliated with any terrorist group. Taguba had seen classified documents revealing that there were only 'one or two' suspected Al Qaeda prisoners at Abu Ghraib."

Taguba's biggest beef was that the investigatory trail was never allowed to lead higher than the MP's stationed at Abu Ghraib, when it was obvious that the orders came from elsewhere.

“There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff”—the explicit images—“was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.”

Also, task force teams under Joint Special Operations Command task force teams were running amuck.

"A recently retired C.I.A. officer, who served more than fifteen years in the clandestine service, told [Hersh] 'It was surrealistic what these guys were doing.' “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the chief of station.”

J.S.O.C.’s special status undermined military discipline.

Both Hersh and Taguba are the sort of Americans required if the U.S. is to win a war on terror. Morality and truth are the basis of effective action. Without these foundations, U.S. efforts are doomed to failure. The article ended on this poignant statement from Taguba:

“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”

Heartbreaking. Taguba's words echo my own, and should reflect those of any thinking American.

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School's Out

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

--School's Out, Alice Cooper


The Chronicle of Higher Education reports the higher education situation in Iraq is dire ("Iraq's Universities Near Collapse.")

The article opens as follows:

"Saad Jawad does not like to take chances. The University of Baghdad political-science professor goes to the campus only once or twice a week, varying the days to throw off any would-be assassins. His courses are less than one-third full, and he often has to wait hours until students show up.

"When a class does finally convene, he assigns enough work to keep students busy for as long as possible because he does not know when they may meet next.

"'I used to attend the college five days a week, stay there, and mix with my students,' Mr. Jawad says, by telephone. 'Not anymore.' He does most of his work and research at home over the Internet, and most of his private meetings with students are by phone."

Aside from his brief trips to campus, Mr. Jawad says he spends almost 24 hours a day self-imprisoned at his home. He has seen several of his fellow academics murdered. The article reports anywhere from 250-1,000 academics murdered since the 2003 invasion.

The Ministry of Higher Education has advised university researchers to come to campus only twice a week in an effort to reduce such attacks. Some universities are operating at 10-20% of capacity, many with only intermittent electricity, so professors are writing papers in longhand, versus using computers.

The result is a near paralysis of Iraqi universities. Almost all academic research in Iraq has halted because fieldwork and data collection are nearly impossible. Even the most mundane activities have become a challenge.

The number of women attending university has especially dwindled. So much for one of our initial vaunted excuses for the invasion--the liberation of women. Meanwhile, the honor-killings of women in our allied state of Pakistan continues, unabated. . .

--by Lisa


Monday, June 25, 2007

Howls of Execration

For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely,
all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution

there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they
should greet me with howls of execration

The Stranger, Camus

You'll get it, GWB--anywhere but Albania.

So troop cuts are possible by March of 2008--possible!

"The U.S. may be able to reduce combat forces in Iraq by next spring if Iraq's own security forces continue to grow and improve, a senior American commander said Friday. He denied reports the U.S. is arming Sunni insurgent groups to help in the fight against al-Qaida (US May Reduce Forces in Iraq by Spring.)"

If the KIA and wounded rates of attrition sustain their current pace, and if troops are not replaced, then that, in effect equals a cut. Sending a platoon home would also be a cut. Nowhere in this article is the word "significant reductions" used.

The article is proof that the war will continue at a vigorous clip until at least next Spring. When will the Congress step up to the plate and cap this madness?

GWB and homies, both in and out of uniform, will not do what is required to end this open-ended, empty policy war.

U.S. tax dollars can not and should not be expended on illegal, ill-conceived wars of aggression. Wars which furthermore will gain us nothing but Camus' "howls of execration."

If only GWB had actually read The Stranger, rather than just carrying under his arm as photo op a while back.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

One Angry Man

Kudos to Gitmo military panel member Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham for exposing the "vague and incomplete intelligence" given to Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) members, and the pressure they were under to to rule against detainees, declaring them "enemy combatants."

"Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only "generic" material that didn't hold up to the most basic legal challenges.

"Despite repeated requests, intelligence agencies arbitrarily refused to provide specific information that could have helped either side in the tribunals, according to Abraham, who said he served as a main liaison between the Combat Status Review Tribunals and the intelligence agencies.

"What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,' Abraham said in the affidavit submitted on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an 'enemy combatant' (Army officer says Gitmo panels flawed.)."

al-Odah attorney David Cynamoon says, "It proves what we all suspected, which is that the CSRTs were a complete sham."

Of course, the Pentagon tells us the "Department of Defense is preparing a response" to Abraham's allegations.

The military held CSRTs for 558 detainees at the U.S. naval base at Gitmo in 2004 and 2005. The handcuffed detainees appeared before 3-person panels made up of three officers. The detainees has a military "personal representative," but not defense attorneys.
All but 38 were determined to be "enemy combatants."

Abraham said while serving on one of the panels,

"(H)e and its members felt strong pressure to find against the detainee, saying there was 'intensive scrutiny' when they declared a prisoner not to be an enemy combatant. When his panel decided the detainee wasn't an enemy combatant, they were ordered to reconvene to hear more evidence, he said."

The article discusses only the legal aspects of the commissions, but the Geneva Convention violations, torture and renditions were not addressed.

Justice, torture and military commissions should seek the truth, and not serve as lapdogs for an administration which peddles its
truth du jour. This is not the American way.

Some things must remain sacrosanct, even in this society which has comodified most things.
Legality is not a variable, nor a fungible, commodity.

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Hucksters and Rubes

Closing Gitmo is a useless, phony public relations ploy aimed to give the impression that the rule of law has become important to GWB in the Phony War on Terror.

"Senior administration officials said Thursday that a consensus is building to shut the center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. . . The Guantanamo facility houses about 380 detainees.

Cheney's office and the Justice Department have been dead set against the step, arguing that moving "unlawful" enemy combatant suspects to the U.S. would give them undeserved legal rights" (Plan Afoot to Shut Guantanamo.)

Of course, the real struggle with terrorism will only be achieved with real actions that address the actual threat posed by terrorism.

Gitmo and secret prisons must be closed because they violate U.S. and international laws. Contrary to GWB and Cheney claims, these prisoners are lawful enemy combatants--soldiers, like ours-- captured on the field of battle, and their detention can only be justified under the auspices of the Geneva Convention.

The G.C. does not authorize the use of prisons or solitary confinements when dealing with combatants.

Several prisoner, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (he of long-term CIA affiliation), are hard core al Qaida operatives, and were not captured on the field of battle. Therefore, their incarceration should appropriately be as prisoners within the criminal justice system. That sort is a criminal, since they conspired to kill American civilians in the civilian sector.

This is the terrorism that U.S. policy should address. That is the threat posed to America. A Taliban rifleman in Afghanistan or Iraq is totally inconsequential to the safety of Americans.

The problem with Gitmo is that both groups of prisoners were treated inhumanely, some actually shanghied and bought for bounties; all were degraded and tortured.

Most importantly, many may have long-term CIA ties that are most embarrassing to the U.S., and we'll never know unless there are open, non-secret trials. What is the administration trying to conceal from the taxpayers? It would seem this fact must be kept secret at all costs.

What is the administration trying to conceal from the taxpayers? What could be worse than the torture that we already know about?

Secrecy is a policy which should not be utilized merely to hide embarrassing facts. Like the fact that the State Department gave $245 million to the Taliban in 2002. It seems that U.S. policy buys the best enemies we can afford.

Closing Gitmo and the secret prisons is a must-do action which is meaningless unless accompanied by a return to the rule of law by the U.S. administration.

"Human Rights Watch said the continued detention of hundreds of men without charge undermined U.S. efforts to end terrorism. (U.S. Struggles With Shutting Down Guantanamo.)

"'Guantanamo has hurt the United States far more than it has hurt its enemies," said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. 'Its closure would help restore the moral authority America needs to effectively fight terrorism and promote the rule of law.'"

The American people, including Congress, must realize that this entire Phony War on Terror is the worst stain on American jurisprudence, leadership and credibility since, well, since GWB became President. I can think of no precedent in the annals of damaging and outrageous national behavior.

Are we so gulled by a flourish, like the demolition of a building? I thought the grand gesture over the Abu Ghraib destruction was affected to appeal to a simpler mindset, for people who saw the thing as inseparable from the behavior.

We have not come far from the days of Aimee Semple McPherson's preaching. We are still the same hucksters and rubes.

The American people are responsible for this grave miscarriage of justice. I see the term in the literal, for the Republicans have aborted the Constitution from the way it conducts business.

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It's Pretty to Think So

 Capt. Renault: "What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?"
Blaine: "My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters."
Capt. Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert."
Blaine: "I was misinformed
Casablanca (1942)
Readiness is all
Hamlet, Shakespeare

Like Bogart's Rick Blaine, they say GWB just got turned the wrong way. But they also say the best way out of a hole is to stop digging.

"The Florida National Guard is beginning to get $86 million in replacement equipment for vehicles and supplies left in Iraq and Afghanistan, but [Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL] said the resupply effort is 'a drop in the bucket (Nelson: Fla. Guard Replacement Equipment 'a Drop in the Bucket'.)"

Nelson questions whether the Florida Guard will be able to effectively respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters with only about 57 percent of its equipment.

But Gen. Douglas Burnett, the Guard's commander, said "I think that we have more than adequate equipment to respond to any conceivable disaster that we may have in the state and we've made sure Gov. (Charlie) Crist is aware of that."

Ranger understands this part clearly: The FLANG has only 57% of its equipment, and this is without considering dead-lined vehicles which would lower the operational number of vehicles available for disaster relief.

Now, would somebody explain how a large-scale disaster could be effectively dealt with, considering these equipment shortfalls?

Once again, words and reality do not mesh. Unless, of course, the N.G. authorize the guardsmen utilize their POV's.

Sounds like a plan


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Motown, Motoring Down

Hello Detroit auto workers, let me thank you for your time
You work a forty hour week for a livin', just to send it on down the line

Hello Pittsburgh steel mill workers, let me thank you for your time

You work a forty hour week for a livin', just to send it on down the line

40 Hour Week, Alabama (1985)

Well we're living here in Allentown

And they're closing all the factories down

Out in Bethlehem they're killing time

Filling out forms

Standing in line.

Well our fathers fought the Second World War

Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore

Every child had a pretty good shot

To get at least as far as their old man got.

Something happened on the way to that place

They threw an American flag in our face

Allentown, Billy Joel (1985)


It was with grim irony I chose Alabama's lyrics. Can you imagine the GWB of photo-op fame actually looking those people in the eye today? Some thanks.

Forbes sees Detroit as one of its prognosticated
Ghost Cities of 2100.

"Detroit's population has fallen by around a third since 1950 and now equals about 950,000. It is expected to shrink slowly but steadily until at least 2030; unemployment inside the city is more than 10%. If trends hold, Detroit will be altered beyond recognition by 2100."

Bill Bonner, in The Life and Death of Great Cities, writes of Detroit as an incidence of national betrayal.

It is a provocative piece, comparing Detroit, our metropolis on the descent, with the once- thriving Chinese metropolis of Kaifeng which, 1000 years ago, was the capital of the Song Dynasty, with more than a million people. "At the time, Detroit didn’t even exist."

In Motor City, "even during wartime, the assembly lines didn't slack off - instead, they sped up, working around the clock to provide trucks, jeeps, tanks, to armies all over the world. War or peace, everyone seemed to want more and more vehicles. How could you go wrong buying property in the city that made them?"

"If you believe that, you should get on a plane to Detroit now. Whole skyscrapers change hands for less than the price of a 3-bedroom apartment in Mayfair. The 65-story David Stott building, for example, is on the market for $3.5 million. For less than a million you can buy a 12,000 square foot Italian renaissance-style mansion, complete with an intricate, hand-carved walnut main staircase and imported wood paneling throughout.

"That may seem like a bargain," says a CNBC reporter, "considering the 1915 limestone house sits on over 2 acres and is just 3 miles from the city center. But
then again, this is
Detroit, Michigan."

"Kaifeng is a now a small, grimy, poor city," and in its stead are financial capitals like NYC and London. In 2007, the new "money-shuffling commerce" is booming.

"All over the world, companies are getting set up, financed, bought out, refinanced, IPO'ed, taken private, merged, acquired, re-IPOed and leveraged in more ways than you can count. It will be a cold day in Hell when the Chinese can compete in this industry."

For the more traditional investors, Bonner suggests they might do better in Liuzhou, China,
where GM is producing its new Wuling Sunshine mini-van. "In 2002, China made a million cars and trucks. By 2020, it's expected to produce 15 million units, more than the United States. How can Detroit stage a comeback with that kind of competition?"

For now, "London and
New York are on top of the world - just like Detroit once was. Just like Kaifeng once was. Prices can only go up, right?"

--by Lisa


Price of Vanity

All is Vanity
Charles Allan Gilbert, American Illustrator

Ah! vainest of all things
Is the gratitude of kings;
The plaudits of the crowd
Are but the clatter of feet
At midnight in the street,
Hollow and restless and loud

, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


If you are not familiar with "Belisarius," it is the tale of the forsaken brave and dedicated warrior who now--"sad, old, and blind"--goes begging for his bread.

Poor Americans also need not fear that this administration is overly concerned with their hearts and minds (Money Cut From College Recruitment Program).

"The University of South Florida is among three major schools in the state that lost funding for a program to recruit low-income and first-generation college students."

The U.S. Department of Education allots about $265 million to support the program.

Imagine the $265 million which nationally funds this worthy 41-year-old program, Upward Bound, aimed at striving disadvantaged American youths. Peanuts compared to the funds thrown at our creation of and involvement in the bloody Mid Eastern fray.

"Upward Bound assists high school students from low-income families whose parents lack college degrees and is geared toward helping students pursue higher education. It provides students with a range of services, including instruction in reading, math and science, entrance exam preparation, exploration of education opportunities and assistance in filling out applications and financial aid documents."

Is there any better way to ensure a strong and healthy society, then the advancement and engagement of all of its citizens, to their highest good? Is there any more noble use of federal money than providing for the success of future generations?

Funds that finance the Iraqi and Afghan wars for one day would properly fund this program. But of course, Iraqi and Afghani citizens are first in line for our federal gravy train dollars, all for the vanity of GWB. Money marching off to war, which shall never return to benefit our citizens.

If all the Limbaugh listeners would only think about their rationale, they would understand what this means. "Fighting them over there, so we don't have to fight them here?" Hardly. Fighting them over there, so we can stand in bread lines over here.

I want to tell my conservative friends, "Don't you see? Terrorists do not fight openly. If even a few are "left standing," they can hoof it over here (with some effort) and detonate a bomb. That is the thing that criminals and terrorists can readily do, now and always.

And they can regenerate their ranks. You will never deplete them, and can only strengthen their resolve via a fight. There will never be a cataclysmic battle on the streets of Boise. They do not have to "fight fair". That is their strength and their prerogative.

That is the way it is on the road going West.

--Jim and Lisa


Second Place Winner

"I've even begun to look back with fondness on Richard Nixon.
After seven years of Bush he's starting to look like Bismarck
or Chateaubriand.

I think that's what the French find so interesting
about American society, it's so schizophrenic.
We have the Carpenters and then we have John Coltrane."

--Douglas Kennedy, author


A cynical man might miss the baby steps. . .

Reuters recently reported the results of the annual failed states index put out by
Foreign Policy magazine and the Carnegie endowment for International Peace:
"Iraq has emerged as the world's second most unstable country, behind Sudan, more than four years after President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, according to a survey released on Monday.

"The 2007 Failed States Index. . . said Iraq suffered a third straight year of deterioration in 2006 with diminished results across a range of social, economic, political and military indicators. Iraq ranked fourth last year.

"Afghanistan, another war-torn country where U.S. and NATO forces are battling a Taliban insurgency nearly six years after a U.S.-led invasion, was in eighth place
(Iraq now ranked second among world's failed states.)

It is interesting to note that the Western view is that "U.S. and NATO forces are battling a Taliban insurgency." Perspective is everything.

Wouldn't it be just as correct to say that elements of Afghan society and the Taliban are fighting to expel an invading army of occupation--which is the key right of any state, failed or successful?

It is further interesting that both Iraq and Afghanistan, after substantial expenditure of U.S. treasure--both life and money--are indisputedly rated as failed states?
"Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government, trustworthy leaders, and realistic plans to keep the peace and develop the economy."

"The authors of the index said one of the leading benchmarks for failed state status is the loss of physical control of territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force."
Isn't it a wonderful concept that the sign of a successful state is the fact that the government in question has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force? An example, it would seem, of such a success is the USA. This is obviously because our maximum leaders will only use violence in a legitimate manner. Ranger must ask Afghanis and Iraqis the old Reagan question: Are you better off now than you were five years ago? Maybe a tax cut would do both countries a world of good.


Friday, June 22, 2007

All Roads Also lead to Rove

But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent

Crazy Jane Talks With the Bishop, William Butler Yeats


This week's Time magazine comments on a recent appeals court ruling which struck down Federal Communications Commission fines charged against broadcasters for indecent and profane language, citing the ubiquity of such language in our current indecency climate (''How Bush Became the Curser in Chief.'')

Wrote the court, "In recent times, even the top leaders of our government have used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe referenced 'sexual or excretory organs or activities.'"

''The decision cited Bush's remark to British Prime Minister Tony Blair last summer, in front of a live mike, that Syria needed to 'get Hizballah to stop doing this s___,' as well as Cheney's hearty invitation to Senator Patrick Leahy, 'Go f___ yourself.'"

GWB and Cheney should not be the standards of verbal excellence regarding what is acceptable speech.

''Bush ran in 2000 partly on the promise that he would restore dignity to the White House, appealing to social conservatives appalled over the Monica Lewinsky scandal and, broadly, the sexualization of American culture.''

Yet these men are now fellating our country, metaphorically speaking.

If their actions do not speak of moral rectitude, why would their spoken words be any more acceptable? They may hold power, but they are not moral arbiters, unless morality has become conflated with pecuniary profitability.

Clarity, and therefore, a consistent morality, is elusive for hypocrites. The current FCC and court definition of indecency is speech which references ''sexual or excretory organs or activities.'' The poet Yeats knew a while ago that all are but bodily functions, neither fair nor foul, nor exclusive of the whole.

The article points out that morality was ''
part of the social-issues glue Karl Rove has counted on to hold together the conservative base, in spite of policy foul-ups and exploding deficits.''

But it was a selective morality, and by virtue of its selectivity, failed to qualify as a moral system at all.
It has devolved into a tattered band of pet issues gaming under the banner of morality--issues like anti-homosexual unions, anti stem cell research, anti medical marijuana usage. Protestations which have the patina of a Christian rectitude, but which are embedded in a party otherwise characterized by such swill as to raise it to the level of a grand tragic comedy.

Aside from the abysmal inadequacy of these men to set the standard for decency in any form, isn't there a little thing called the First Amendment that guarantees Americans freedom of speech, and non-interference of government in its expression?

Does the Constitution guarantee free speech, except when it is indecent and offends the delicate sensibilities of the FCC? How can the government square with free speech and also FCC regulations clearly violating that privilege? Ranger's brain is confused.

Ranger clearly believes that as in the terrorism arena the administration wants it both ways with the FCC issue (isn't that urge something the fundamentalist base frowns upon?) We export democracy, but deny freedom of speech on the airwaves.


--by Jim and Lisa

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